Jul 20, 2008

The Third Floor Drive-In: Season Four, Episode 5


The May 13 episode of The Third Floor Drive-In was the science fiction-horror film Monster on the Campus (1958). While Jack Arnold had made many films under contract for Universal, this economical director is best known for his string of science fiction movies made in the 1950's. Today, such films as It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula,and The Incredible Shrinking Man still hold up very well for their no-nonsense, matter-of-fact delivery, and thoughtful writing. Tonight's film is one of the last and lesser-known of his fantasy pictures, while not on the same caliber as the others, it's not as muddled as The Space Children either (admittedly, I've wanted to give that one another look).

University professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) receives a coelacanth (that's a prehistoric lungfish) embedded in ice, and accidentally cuts his hand on one of the fins, and as a result, at times turns into a hairy monster that starts a lot of bodies to pile up on campus. Of course, things were already getting fishy (no pun intended) as they disposed of a giant dragonfly who grew to such proportions after landing on the coelacanth, and even their nice doggie grew big fangs and attacked people after having lapped up some of the melted ice that encased the fish! Since it's the 1950's, of course the fish was exposed to radiation. Of all of the atomic-themed fantasy films Arnold made, this is surely the silliest and least mature, but at 77 minutes it's a fun little film. Despite that Arnold himself didn't care for this movie, it's still rather briskly made, despite the less-than-special effects, and is often cleverly shot. And oh yes, teenage heartthrob Troy Donahue makes an early appearance as one of the college kids. What the hell, it's the drive-in, and pretty much anything is acceptable when you're in a blanket under the stars.

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